Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 June 2012
Australia became a signatory to the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (the Convention) in 1954 and to the 1967 Protocol in 1973. It thereby assumed certain obligations under the Convention, the principal one being to grant asylum to people who fall within the definition of a refugee as set out in Article 1A(2). The process or manner in which asylum is granted is not expressly stipulated in the Convention. It is governed by the Migration Act 1958 (Cth).
The Migration Act 1958 (Cth) provides for visas to be issued on refugee and humanitarian grounds to applicants under the government's humanitarian program. That program is made up of onshore protection for those people already in Australia, whether or not they arrived with temporary visas or without a visa at all, and resettlement in Australia for people in humanitarian need overseas (including those who are classified as refugees by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and recommended for resettlement). Previously, both the onshore and offshore visa categories included both permanent and temporary residence visas. Now temporary visas have been abolished.